What’s the Idea?
A basic overview of the ways you can learn music theory, with links to external resources.
What’s the story
I’ve studied music theory since I was very young, as I started playing classical flute and piano age 8, and getting Grade 5 Theory was essential in order to move past Grade 5 practical exams on those instruments.
I continued on to study Music GCSE, A Level and Degree, all of which had high theoretical content. As a professional singer/song-writer, music theory has been incredibly useful.
People should do this because…?
Having a deeper understanding as to how music is structured, what chord progressions work best, what intervals follow on from each other better, and what keys clash, etc will ultimately make you a better musician, DJ, singer, composer and listener.
Having music theory in your bank of knowledge is a HUGE step forward in terms of what you can achieve with your own creativity. You will also be able to communicate better with your fellow musicians/producers when composing or recording a track in the studio.
How do you do it?
Learning theory should begin with “reading music”. Getting a grasp on “the music alphabet”, ie the system of 7 letters (A B C D E F G) that are assigned to musical notes is a great place to start.
Each of these letters has a corresponding place on “the stave” (the five lines and spaces between them that you see on sheet music). If you can memorise these, you can read music!
The other basics it’s a good idea to get a handle on are scales, intervals, chords and key signatures:
Scales are combinations of the letters/notes we just talked about.
An interval is the distance in pitch between two notes.
Chords are particular notes of a scale combined together to make one sound, as opposed to the scale itself, where you play the notes one at a time, one after the other.
Key signatures are what assigns the overall key of the piece of music you want to play, and will be marked by either “sharps” or “flats” at the very beginning of the sheet music/staff.
Learn and practise these concepts one step at a time so as not to overwhelm yourself.
There are many options available for learning music theory online, including:
1) Free courses that have been affiliated by a university, such as Coursera and iTunes University.
2) YouTube videos (examples given in this article)
3) Music Theory websites (examples given in this article)
4) Paid lessons from a professional through a website such as Udemy.com (links given in this article).
Research these options carefully and make sure you’re getting more value from the one you choose than you would one of the free options.
6) A music theory course at an online university such as Berklee Online (link given in this article)
One on one lessons with a private online instructor.
Stuff you may need
- Music Manuscript Paper
- An instrument such as a keyboard, guitar, or online piano app.